Condo uncovers mystery of its dengue outbreak

Minister Grace Fu and South East District Mayor Maliki Osman squatting to check a mosquito breeding spot at Ferraria Park yesterday. The condo's management had earlier found larvae under the heavy concrete slabs that cover a large part of the estate.
PHOTO: Condo uncovers mystery of its dengue outbreak

SINGAPORE - A design fault that allowed water to accumulate beneath paving stones and become breeding spots for mosquitos is part of the reason for the high number of dengue fever cases reported at the Ferraria Park condominium, it was revealed yesterday.

The sprawling condo in Loyang has heavy elevated paving slabs that let water seep between them into hidden drains below. These in turn became ideal breeding places for the Aedes mosquito, which transmits dengue.

About 30 residents have caught the potentially deadly disease over the past two months, a period that has seen dengue cases skyrocket across Singapore.

The condo was part of a cluster of 218 cases closed on July 8. Roughly half the victims were residents of nearby condos, the rest workers on construction sites.

The discovery of the paving stone problem came after weeks of fruitless investigation by the condo's management committee, which included checking all visible surfaces - which had found breeding in barbecue pits - and increasing the frequency of fogging. Chairman Andrew Yeo told The Straits Times: "It was scary. We exceeded our budget but still every few days, one or two more residents got dengue."

Eventually, with the help of officers from the National Environment Agency, they lifted the 20kg concrete slabs covering a large part of the public areas and found larvae breeding in two places.

Ms Grace Fu, Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, who visited the condo yesterday with Dr Maliki Osman, Mayor of South East District, said her ministry will detail design features that make maintenance hard and pose a danger as mosquito breeding places. The findings will be raised with the construction sector.

Ms Fu said the Ferraria Park case "provided positive lessons" because of "the many challenges brought about by design", adding that it was important for architects to design homes for easy maintenance.

Singapore is grappling with a dengue epidemic, with 828 people diagnosed last week and 891 the week before - the highest weekly numbers recorded. A further 87 people have been hit since Sunday.

Almost 11,500 people have caught the viral infection this year, with around one in five ending up in hospital, according to the Health Ministry.

Dengue sufferers often experience high fever, severe headaches, muscle and joint pain and, in more severe cases, bleeding internally and externally.

salma@sph.com.sg

This article was first published on July 15, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.